Kastel Fortress in Banja Luka has become part of a new tourist route, promoting Balkan fortresses, as some of the most important cultural and historical objects in the region. This underdeveloped and modernly promoted fortification will become more visible to all tourists who are interested in the historical and cultural heritage of the Balkans thanks to the Creative History Balkan Tour (CHBT) project.
Kastel Fortress in located in the centre of Banja Luka, on a plateau, where the small river Crkvena debouches into the Vrbas River. The Fortress is the oldest preserved historic monument in the city, the place of origin of Banja Luka. Material evidence, accompanied by written sources and cartographic documents discovered later, allow us to have a great insight into all phases of Kastel’s development.
The first archaeological traces date back to dozens of centuries ago, all the way to the Palaeolithic and they are traces of Gravettian hunters. The continuity of constant living on this locality has been proven for a period of at least 8,000 years – since the first settlements of farmers in the Neolithic, over those in the Bronze Age, Roman and Illyrian conquests of Illyrian territories, the Middle Ages and Modern Age, until now. This makes Banja Luka one of the oldest cities in Europe.
During archaeological research in 1974, remains of a prehistoric settlement were found in Kastel, dating back to the period connecting the Neolithic and the Bronze Age, around 2000-1800 BC. The location of the fortress is typical of settlements from the so-called Baden culture, which are often found on elevated segments of river terraces. This prehistoric Illyrian settlement then witnessed the rise of Ancient Rome and Roman conquests of Illyrian territories in 1st and 2nd century BC. The Illyrian-Pannonian uprising between 6 and 9 AD – event that shook the very foundations of the Roman Empire – was smothered in blood by the Empire and Roman military commander Germanicus occupied the present-day Banja Luka and turned it into a fortified military camp.
The total area surrounded by ramparts is 26,610 m2, with additional 21,390 m2outside the walls. Ramparts, towers and bastions of Kastel Fortress was build using several types of stones, joint using different methods and laying patterns, which suggests there were several phases in the construction period.
The fortress was severely damaged in the earthquakes in 1969 and 1981. Over the past four decades, a number of projects have been designed and implemented in order to renew and reconstruct certain parts of the fortress.